By Ken Krayeske • 3:00 PM EST
So I hate driving my car. I am not a very good driver, and of all the lousy car culture trappings, I loathe when you break down in the middle of the highway at 4:30 on a weekday afternoon.
Yuck. It cost me $70 to tow to a garage, and I was 30 minutes late for law school. In education law, the class discussed the reach of the government into our daily lives. I argued that policy impacts behavior, and shapes the way we live, and made me late for class.
People said that I granted too much power to the government, that I afforded the institution more credit than it deserves. I tried to use the automobile as an example, how auto manufacturers bought up trolley companies and the laissez faire regulatory state let this radical transit monopoly emerge.
Yet I lacked time to delve into the subsidies our tax dollars give the auto industry – if the public fisc didn’t spring for roads, how would the private single-occupant vehicle transportation system work? In ways we don't even realize, government pervades all areas of our lives.
When we do challenge corrupt, dangerous policies, we pay a price. This Monday, I attended the wake of John Hogan of Hamden, age 73. I drove my rotten car down to the funeral home. I had never met John, but he inspired me.
Hogan and eight others doused hundreds of draft cards with homemade napalm in 1968, saving countless young men from war. They were the Catonsville 9, from Maryland, and they all did between two and three years in federal pens for their acts of conscience.
With another of the Catonsville 9, Tom Lewis, I once spent an afternoon in jail. The repercussions of that obstruction of free passage on a sidewalk charge from 2004 still haunt me. I missed Lewis’ wake when he died in May. I had to go pay my respects to John Hogan.
In 1968, when a heated presidential election turned on a war of choice, Hogan’s ballot was a pile of blazing draft cards in a parking lot. The Catonsville 9, some say, helped incite the protest movement that helped end the war.
Would Obama or McCain practice that kind of conscientious leadership, pushing government towards that more peaceful vision of sprinkle-all-around egalitarianism, neither would be in the race for president. But why not?
Watching the scripted presidential election conversation October 7, one wishes we had such leadership. At least Obama said health care was a right, which means that the government has some affirmative duties to protect our exercise of that right.
It is a small step forward. And I saw glimpses of the brilliance Obama can show, yet again, he held back. When he mentioned Russia displayed “nationalistic impulses” in invading Georgia, I felt like he stuttered, and thought that critique could apply to the American invasion of Iraq.
But of course, Obama promised to go to arms if a threat like the Third Reich clambered across borders. What I would do if I were in Germany in 1933. Everyone says that they would not let militaristic fascism happen in their country.
When I hear smart, decent human beings say that we can’t leave Iraq because we are the only ones who can fix it, I shake my head in shame. It seems we want to believe the two-party illusion that America is the greatest force for good in the history of the world.
Perhaps Obama and McCain have polling-tested focus groups that lead them to hammer on the recurrent theme of the election: America is good. America can fix the world We must exist because there is evil. Fighting evil gives us meaning. Not said, but implied: We are too big, too important to let fail.
The extreme jingoism seems a direct response to the Omerta code of American exceptionalism (you can’t mention the bad things we do). While Obama and McCain preach that military might produces good, (translation: empire brings prosperity), I think we doubt our capacity for benevolence.
We cannot pretend to bring democracy to the world when we can’t discuss it in the 50 states with a straight face. Voter fraud is alive and well here.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. didn’t stand on the stage with Obama in February like his cousin Caroline. No, he has been out investigating voter fraud with investigative journalist Greg Palast.
Kennedy and Palast have nailed down how the Republicans have already stolen the 2008 election. At stealbackyourvote.com, you can download a comic book detailing the myriad manners in which current state regimes across the U.S. have disenfranchised millions.
“From Steal #2: The Colorado Republican Secretary of State erased 19.4% off the names on that swing-state’s voter rolls. One in five voters – pfft! Bush then named her to be Chairwoman of the Federal Elections Assistance Commission. (We hear Bush wanted to give her the title, “Purge’n General.”)
“From Steal #3: Spoiling America. ‘Few Americans realize that in 2004, 1,389,231 ballots were never counted because they were “spoiled.” Were they left out of the fridge?’
“From Steal #4: Nuns on the Run. So these 10 nuns walk into a polling station and… Oh, you’ve heard that one? What you didn’t hear: 143,896 other voters were told to scram in swing-state Indiana. Nearly half of them… African American.”
It’s not just Obama ignoring voter fraud. I heard a representative of the Brennan Center For Justice at NYU’s Law School discuss voter fraud on Counter-Spin, the Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting radio show. They didn’t mention Palast’s current reporting, or his historical record of 58,000 purged names on voter rolls in Florida in 2000.
But we’re different country that we can run an African-American man for president, people say. We don’t need German Sheperds and fire hoses anymore. Only soldiers on our streets, as Amy Goodman recently reported about an Army combat brigade patrolling American cities.
Both candidates pronounced a willful blindness to evil that we do. I wonder how can they offer blanket praise American soldiers serving with honor? Have they not read what our boys did in Haditha? In Abu Ghraib? In Bagram? War turns us into monsters.
Americans are hungry for new leadership, for someone to call them to sacrifice and serve for greater good, Obama said. Yet the answer isn’t his plans for foreign military excursions, colonialism with a pretty face.
One of the women in the town hall debate asked Obama and McCain how citizens can trust either of the parties with our money because they walked us into this mess. Neither candidate gave a satisfactory answer.
Because one doesn’t exist. We have a government that runs our lives in the most minute ways, it is so invasive we take it for granted, and yet we have so little say in how that government is run.